Section Image: Grieser at Frog Fountain

Professor Uses Unconventional Approach to Economics

Assistant Professor of Finance William Grieser made economics rhyme over a popular early 2000’s beat to welcome students to his money and banking class for fall 2020.

November 24, 2020

By Mariana Rivas

You read that right. A rap video for a money and banking class.

A rap video written by, created by and starring Assistant Professor of Finance William Grieser, introduced banking concepts to students signed up for his Fall 2020 class. He intended it to engage students who may not have had a particular interest in economics.

“They just need something to kind of spark their initial interest,” Grieser said. “If I can reach even a couple of students through an unconventional approach like a rap song, then it's worth it.”

The video was viewed more than a thousand times.

Grieser got a lot of emails from students expressing their excitement for the class to start, he said.

Senior finance major Emily Petr said she thinks the medium was an especially impactful way to peak the class’ interest in economics.

“Economics is the historical and future story of our world,” said Petr. “Teaching it with enthusiasm and from a story-telling perspective automatically engages the class.”

The video was so successful that Grieser wrote another rap song. This time, it covered a more specific topic: chairman of the federal reserve system Ben Bernanke’s management of the 2008 financial crisis.

Students had to interpret the topics included in each line of the song. They defined economic terms in the lyrics and gave more context to events mentioned.

“I will now forever have a greater respect for what Bernanke accomplished as well as a full understanding of what truly happened in 2008,” said Petr.

Grieser hired rapper and sound engineer Gee Smiff to collaborate on the projects. Smiff said he thinks the message was impactful because it makes learning more understandable.

“It’s not stuffy,” Smiff said. “It’s just more entertaining opposed to trying to shove information down students’ throats.”

Learning about Grieser’s idea on the website Airgigs piqued Smiff’s interest. The beat Grieser chose was one of Smiff’s favorites when he was younger.

“I played that song like every day during the summer, so it already hit home for me,” Smiff said.

This style of rap was easy to write for, said Grieser, who never officially learned to write music. He also attributed both songs’ success to how catchy the beats were.

“I don't think I would have had the same effect if it was another genre for this type of delivery,” he said.

Even if the song didn’t achieve its initial goal of engaging disinterested students in economics, “at a minimum, it made learning fun,” Grieser said.